Inside Tom Cruise And Val Kilmer's Behind-The-Scenes Rivalry

Tom Cruise is best known for his mega-watt smile, shedding thetans in his quest for spiritual well-being, and carrying out daredevil stunts. He also has a reputation for being a fan-favorite and one of the nicest guys in Hollywood — well, according to some. Jennifer Connelly raved about working with Cruise. She played his love interest, Penny Benjamin, in "Top Gun: Maverick," the follow-up to 1986's smash hit, "Top Gun." Surprisingly, Connelly had never crossed paths with Cruise previously, but when they did meet, she was immediately blown away. "He's so exceptional," Connelly gushed to Variety. "Spending time with him, you understand how someone has been such a movie star for so many years."

Metro notes some of Cruise's other co-stars, such as Andrew Garfield, Simon Pegg, and Lea Thompson, have raved about his exemplary work ethic and on-camera "generosity." However, not everybody has drunk the film star's Flavor Aid. Thandiwe Newton, who starred in "Mission: Impossible II," told Vulture that working with the "dominant" Cruise was a terrifying "nightmare."

Val Kilmer also isn't #TeamCruise. There'd been no love lost between the two while filming the original "Top Gun." As Maverick and Iceman battled it out on-screen to be the cream of the Navy flying crop, the actors' competitiveness led to them butting heads off-camera, too. Buckle up, Goose. We're in for a bumpy ride as we dive into Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer's behind-the-scenes rivalry.

There was a method to Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer's behind-the-scenes rivalry

ScreenRant reported only two of the original cast members appeared in "Top Gun: Maverick." Tom Cruise returned as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, while Val Kilmer reprised his role of Tom "Iceman" Kazansky in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo. There'd been rumors of a rivalry between the actors during filming of "Top Gun," and Kilmer confirmed the reports in interviews, talking about what it was like working with Cruise. However, he opened up further in the documentary "Val" (via Good Housekeeping), sharing that their conflict spilt over into real life, too.

Kilmer said the friction was caused by the their mutual obsession with method acting. He explained that, in the script, Iceman was kind of two-dimensional. Therefore, he worked to add depth and backstory to the character. The result was a man "driven by a need to be perfect in every way" with an excessive level of arrogance and swagger. Kilmer admitted his penchant for staying in character led to the on-camera rivalry with Maverick continuing when they weren't filming. Add Cruise's adherence to method acting, too, and it's little surprise they continually butted heads.

"I would purposefully play up the rivalry between Tom's character and mine off-screen as well," Kilmer said. "And what ended up happening is the actors, in true method fashion, split into two distinct camps." He shared that it turned into Maverick and Nick "Goose" Bradshaw, vs. Iceman, Ron "Slider" Kerner, Rick "Hollywood" Neven, and Leonard "Wolfman" Wolfe.

Val Kilmer's return as Iceman surprised Top Gun fans

It took 36 years for the "Top Gun" sequel to finally be released. But, by all accounts, it was well worth the wait. BBC reports "Top Gun: Maverick" was the flyaway success of 2022, leaving competitors behind, choking on vapor trails. The movie was the year's "international box office champion," raking in more than $1.5 billion.

Initially, Val Kilmer wasn't going to be in the movie. Fans were surprised to learn that he'd be appearing, albeit in a small cameo. Per The New York Times Magazine, Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014. His battle against the disease resulted in Kilmer barely being able to speak. Due to a tracheostomy and grueling chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Kilmer is forced to squeeze "air up through his windpipe" to communicate vocally. The Times claims that the result is a sound that's somewhere "between a squeak and a voiceless roar."

The Los Angeles Times reports that in "Top Gun: Maverick," Kilmer typed his dialogue into a computer, which then transformed the words into his former voice by using artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, thankfully, Kilmer announced in 2020 that his cancer had been in remission for four years. However, he's had to have a feeding tube permanently inserted. "I can't speak without plugging this hole [in my throat]," Kilmer told People. "You have to make the choice to breathe or to eat," he explained. "It's an obstacle that is very present with whoever sees me."